Homily – Respect Life Sunday (27th in Ordinary Time) 2011
“…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” These words are from our second reading today.
It is unusual for our Sunday readings to be as direct as today’s readings are, I think. Many times, we have to hold up a lens and look at the readings, and try to make some connections that speak to our situation today. I don’t think this is one of those times.
Today marks the beginning of Respect Life Month in our Church in the United States. One would have to never read a newspaper, listen to a radio, or watch the news to be unaware of the situation facing the most vulnerable members of our society today, in the Culture of Death that is trying to take over our society. Catholic organizations being required by regulation to provide for birth control; hospitals being forced to provide abortion services; a child killed after birth, and his mother given a suspended sentence.
What are we thinking about? What are we allowing to happen in our culture? And what will come of it? .
The first reading and the Gospel both use imagery of a vineyard to speak to us today. And in both readings, there is mismanagement going on, isn’t there?
The reading from Isaiah laments that, even though the owner of the vineyard did everything he could to make the vineyard fertile, it failed to produce good fruit. The consequence of that failure? The owner gave up on it, and let it fall into ruin! The owner knocked down the hedges so that sheep could graze. He knocked down the walls so that people could trample it. And he stopped cultivating it, so that weeds could take over.
And in the Gospel, Jesus speaks of tenants who try to steal the vineyard from its rightful owner. Time after time, the owner of the vineyard sent people to get his produce. The people he left responsible for the vineyard beat, stoned and killed everyone the owner sent, even his son! And what happened to them? The vineyard was taken away and given to other tenants!
Both readings were intended to be applied to those who heard them when they were written. Isaiah’s parable referred to a coming time of trouble for Israel. Jesus’ parable was directed at those who would reject Him, and pointed out that others would be brought in to produce fruit, in place of those who were out for their own ends.
We might be tempted to look at these stories and go, “Oh, poor Israel! Those poor Jews! If only they’d listened! If only they’d believed!” We might be tempted, but we would be wrong.
These stories speak to us, too. They speak to a culture that has taken what has been given to it, and turned it upside down. They speak to a people who have, somehow, decided that things that are clearly wrong, well, they’re ok…I mean, we wouldn’t want to judge or anything. The parables speak to a people whose judgments are sometimes so clouded that we produce robust federal laws to protect people from having to hear anyone tell them they might be making a mistake. They speak to a culture that has forgotten that life, all life, is sacred, from conception to natural death.
And they speak to a culture that has made so many compromises with the Truth that it has, in some instances, lost its way. We can now experiment on people (in the form of embryos) with the excuse that we might cure disease (killing one person to save another). We can justify giving the government the authority to decide who should and shouldn’t receive life-saving or life extending treatments.
And we can look the other way as millions of people are killed every year, in the womb, in the name of “choice”.
It’s horrible, really, when you think about it. It’s so horrible, in fact, that many of us don’t want to think about it. I can count myself in that number, at least at one time in my life; I walked out of a homily in a church in Lawton, OK, back in 1988, because I just couldn’t listen to some deacon tell me how wrong I was to support a woman’s “right to choose”. I didn’t want to hear it.
But brothers and sisters, we have to hear it. We have to hear the approximately 50 million voices silenced in our country alone since 1973 by the sin of abortion. We have to hear the silent cries of the millions of women who have been harmed in our country by the lie of “choice”. We have to reach out to them, not in judgment, but in compassion! We have to at least be willing to welcome them back into our communion, and we have to be willing to help them heal!
And we have to be willing to stand up for the Truth. Our parish will take part in the Memphis 40 Days for Life campaign next Sunday. Stand for life by coming out that day. If you can’t come out, support those that can in prayer that day. But, whatever we choose to do, we have to stand up.
The consequences of continuing on this path, as a country and a world, are terrifying to contemplate. We have a choice. We can stand up for the Truth. We can defend life. Or we can reap the consequences.
What is the Truth…about Life? Where do we stand? What are we willing to do to make that stand known?
Thank God my mother was pro-life when I was conceived. Thank God your mom was too.
“…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” This is what Paul told the Philippians. This is what Paul is telling us.
What are we thinking?